This is the second in a series of first-person narratives of harms caused by wellness vendors. These narratives have been painstakingly compiled, unretouched except for formatting, and with no detail omitted other than the victim’s name and employer. I won’t tell you who the perps are yet, other than to say that the vendors I have consistently noted to be the best — American Institute of Preventive Medicine, Health Advocate, HealthCheck360, It Starts with Me, Limeade, Redbrick, SelfHelpWorks, Sterling, Sonic Boom, Sustainable Health Index, US Preventive Medicine — are not among them.
I’m 37 and have put a lot of work into recovering from bulimia. I have been in treatment for bulimia for 12 years. I see a therapist, a doctor specializing in eating disorders, and a psychiatrist.
For the last five years, I’ve worked at a technology company. I’ve noticed that every year, their “wellness program” has become more and more triggering, as it has become increasingly tied to health biometrics and “rewards” on my paycheck. The “rewards” for taking answering the health risk assessment, taking various biometric tests, and meeting certain health outcomes are so significant that I felt I had to participate. These rewards now come to a total of $2470 per year for taking the tests and meeting all of the health targets. With a family and a child in day care, I cannot afford to forego such a large amount of money.
A couple of years ago, the wellness program started to require that employees’ weight, triglycerides, and blood pressure be checked. These biometric screenings happen every year, and I dread it. If my body mass index does not fall into what the program considers “normal,” then I don’t get a “reward” on my paycheck—or, to put it another way, I get penalized. If I forego even one part of the biometric screens, such as the weight check, I lose the reward for all of the screenings. In addition, the program’s instructions for employees, including to keep their meal portions “as small as possible” (to “fit into your skinny jeans”) are inconsistent with and undermine all the work that I have done to overcome my disability.
The wellness program allows employees to have their own physicians perform the screenings. When my doctor heard about the screenings, he was incredulous. He indicated that, out of concern for my health, he did not want me to participate in these tests. But I felt compelled to do so given the large sum at stake. My doctor wrote a letter explaining that having me step on a scale and having my weight read out loud would be extremely damaging. After three months of requests and negotiations, I was ultimately able to get the program to permit me to apply for the incentive without my doctor filling out the screening form (a special “manual process” was used), but this process was extraordinarily stressful and I have no assurance that I will be permitted to do this in the future. I was the first person who was able to forego the screening without losing the incentive—and to my knowledge, the only person. And guess what? It’s time to do the entire thing again for this year’s screening!